The Baltimore Orioles just can't seem to get it right. They came back from another big deficit last night and suffered another in a series of frustrating defeats.
This time, Kirk Gibson delivered the late-inning home run, but it was the same old story. The Kansas City Royals scored a 6-4 victory and swept the three-game series at Memorial Stadium.
Left-hander Paul Kilgus served up Gibson's 200th career home run with a runner on in the ninth to besmirch an otherwise solid performance by the Orioles bullpen.
Right-hander Todd Frohwirth had pitched an impressive 3 1/3 innings in relief of starter Roy Smith, but he could not stay out there forever. Kilgus came on to start the ninth and gave up an infield single to Brian McRae before Gibson drove a towering fly ball into the right-field bleachers. It was his eighth home run of the season, but it was his first off a left-handed pitcher.
The past week has been a nightmare for Kilgus, who has appeared in three games and given up 10 earned runs in 2 1/3 innings.
"I just got a little too concerned with the runner, and I wanted to throw a strike," he said. "I left it up. It was a cutter [a cut fastball]. Very hittable. If he hadn't hit it out, I would have been surprised."
The Orioles lost for the fifth time in a row to fall 11 1/2 games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays -- the farthest back they have been this season.
Royals left-hander Mark Davis got the victory for the second night in a row. Stopper Jeff Montgomery, who has not been scored upon in 19 career innings against the Orioles, pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 13th save.
This has got to be getting old for John Oates, who has won just seven of his first 20 games as manager. He was working last night with a two-player handicap. Dwight Evans and Bill Ripken were unavailable because of nagging injuries.
"The first week, I didn't eat and the last two weeks, I haven't slept," Oates said. "Between the two, I'm going to be a wreck. I got my hair cut the other day, and the guy asked if I wanted him to put some tint in my hair. I've never been asked that before."
Once again, the Orioles couldn't get a handle on the heart of the Royals batting order. Danny Tartabull hit his third home run in two games as the Royals scored four runs off Smith in the first four innings.
There was some doubt whether Tartabull would even appear in the series. He had missed four straight games with a sprained ligament in his left wrist, including Tuesday night's game at Memorial Stadium. But he came back with a fury Wednesday night, driving in a career-high six runs with two homers and a double.
His ability to hit the high strike had been well established by the time Smith took the mound last night, but there are some things you have to find out for yourself.
Smith greeted Tartabull with a fastball up and Tartabull greeted Smith with a leadoff home run in the second inning to give the Royals the lead. Tartabull would also come up in the third and drive home a run with a single as Kansas City jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
The Royals averaged more than eight runs per game in the series, which began with an 11-0 blowout on Tuesday night and included the wild 9-8 victory in the second game.
But the Orioles continued to show surprising resilience. After Kurt Stillwell put Kansas City up by four with a sacrifice fly in the fourth, the Orioles offense bounced back to score four times in the bottom of the fourth to rescue Smith.
Cal Ripken opened the inning with his second hit and moved into scoring position on a one-out single by Leo Gomez, who has hit safely in each of the seven games since he was recalled from the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings.
Randy Milligan brought home the first run with a single through the middle, and David Segui followed with an RBI double into the left-field corner. Tim Hulett popped out with runners at second and third, but Bob Melvin lined a two-run single to center to tie the game.
Smith did not get much of a chance to extend his three-game winning streak. He got the first two outs of the fifth inning, only to get the hook after a walk to Tartabull and a single by Mike Macfarlane.
Apparently, there is more to the Oates approach than meets the stat sheet. He stayed with Frohwirth in a tough situation in the seventh inning against the top two left-handed hitters in the Royals lineup.
It was a golden opportunity for Kansas City to break the 4-4 tie. Brian McRae opened the seventh with a triple, leaving Frohwirth with the task of facing Gibson and Brett with the Royals needing only the right kind of out to take the lead.
"I figured that Frohwirth had as good a chance as anybody of getting a ground ball in that situation," Oates said.
Frohwirth got Gibson on a weak comebacker and walked Brett to bring Tartabull to the plate. That apparently was the matchup Oates wanted, even though Tartabull had homered earlier in the game and had reached base safely in each of his previous seven at-bats.